On the cobbled back streets of Seville, flamenco is always just a breath away. From the determined tap, tap, taps emanating from hidden away rehearsal studios, to someone studiously practising flamenco guitar from their living room, unaware that an enraptured ‘guiri’ (foreigner) is listening on the street below.
But for many tourists, that’s as near as they get to the real mccoy. Instead, they’ll find themselves watching a sanitised, over priced version, with not a local face in sight.
So where do the locals go see flamenco? I’ve spoken about the ‘Peñas’ in the past: they’re kind of like social clubs for flamenco lovers, local and foreigners alike. But last Thursday I paid a visit to the hottest flamenco night in town: Café Cantante in Koko, underneath the Setas in Plaza Encarnación.
Koko is a small club, all minimalist, hard lines and neon lit. By Seville standards, not a natural home for a flamenco show. In the middle of what I imagine is normally a packed dancefloor, is the ubiquitous tabla, the wooden floor that a bailaora dances on. That, along with two wooden chairs, positioned inconspicuously towards the back, were the only clues that a flamenco show was about to take place.
But tonight, it’s not a club, it’s Café Cantante, referring back to the term used for places that housed flamenco shows in the 19th century before the advent of the modern tablaos. But don’t go expecting teary eyed, flamenco nostalgia. This is flamenco with a modern edge.
Run by Flamenco dancer Sandra ‘la Negra’ Guerrero, she picks artists that have reached the point in their career where they perform in flamenco festivals both in Spain and internationally. As a result, it has become the place where flamenco dancers go to see their peers perform.
Last week it was the turn of Lucia ‘la Piñona’ Alvarez. Lucia, a multi-award winning dancer, who’s performed her own show ‘Un Granito de Arena’ at the Flamenco festival in Jerez as well as performing all over the world, left the audience in doubt of her dancing mettle.
I can’t claim to be someone qualified to comment on the intricacies of a bailaora’s performance. Only to say that Lucia exuded elegance, power and poise, with moments of explosive technique that took my breath away.
I feel I must also mention Pepe de Pura, who sang with a vocal artistry I’d never encountered before in my various flamenco outings. There were no hoarse, bellowed cries or reliance on sheer brute force to get the notes out, but an effortless range that sent shivers down my spine.
And then there was the ‘fin de fiesta’. For the uninitiated, this is the bit at the end of the show when any dancers, singers or even clappers are invited on stage to show what they can do. It’s always bursting with good humour and fun, but more often than not people have to be press-ganged onto stage and only a couple acquiesce.
Not the case at Café Cantante, or it certainly wasn’t last Thursday. Suddenly out of the audience emerged about 8 petite, curly haired women, all giggling shyly, as they waited for their moment. But behind the girly, sweetness lay a bevvy of flamenco power houses, as each in turn tore up the stage with their own moment of glory.
Café Cantante is only on Thursday nights and officially starts at 10pm (although it was more like 10.3opm last week).
Tickets cost 10 Euros in advance or 12 Euros on the door and includes a drink.
For more information contact: Sandra Guerrero firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 648 429 822.
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Thanks for this post Mary, it’s been super helpful. I’m just wondering if Cafe Cantante is still up and running? Can’t seem to find much information about it and have emailed and contacted them on Facebook to double check that they’re still running shows but haven’t heard anything back. We’re in Seville on 22nd September (which happens to be a Thursday) so we’re really keen to catch the flamenco here. Much prefer the idea of being in a bar than watching a full on show! Hope you can hep. Thanks so very much.
Hi Marion, yes I had the same problem with Café Cantante. Things always take a few weeks to get going after the summer, so it may have started up by then. If not there’s T de Triana and also I received this invite recently which is flamenco in a bar on the 22nd September
Also at the moment it’s the bienal flamenco festival, so I think the city’s attentions are focussed on that.
Thanks for the update Mary. I’ll keep contacting them to see if they can confirm or not. Is T de Triana your other recommendation of choice? I’d rather not go to a full-on show or a tablao. Also, where is the invite for on 22nd?